ISRF Collaborative Fellows 2023
ISRF Collaborative Fellows 2023
Leonardo Niro studied Psychology in Brazil and the UK, obtaining his PhD at University College London in 2018 with a dissertation on the history of Sigmund Freud’s early engagement with physiology. He is a Lecturer at the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex (UK), where he runs the Research Group in the History of Psychoanalysis. For the ISRF, he is doing a Collaborative Fellowship in the History of Knowledge (co-funded and based at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science), in collaboration with Dr. Bruno Rates. The joint project explores the role played by concepts of force and energy in framing the objects of study of psychology and physiology in the 18th to the 20th century.
Bruno Rates (right) is a post-doc researcher at the Department of Philosophy of the University of São Paulo (USP)/FAPESP, Brazil, and is currently a visitor scholar at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS-Paris). He published several articles in Portuguese, English and French about the philosophical impacts of the life sciences from 1850-1939. His book, The expressions of life. Nature and Culture in the Philosophy of Bergson, is to be released in 2023.
Inspired by the success of Newtonian analytical mechanics and thermodynamics, in the 18th and 19th centuries life scientists made use of concepts of force and energy to understand vital phenomena. When applied to the specificity of living beings, however, the concepts underwent important changes. With the establishment of scientific psychology in the 19th, we observe a similar movement in the treatment of psychic phenomena, especially considering the physiological training of most pioneer psychologists. The group intends to investigate the intricacies of this history, having as background the continuities and ruptures between the tortuous path of constitution of biology as an autonomous discipline and the positive approach to psychological processes.
Within the context of “crisis” and fragmentation of science in the 19th century, energy conservation provided an over-arching natural law, unifying all the sciences. These concepts, we maintain, provided a unifying conceptual framework tying together disciplines such as psychology, sociology, human physiology, medical practices, and political economy to the natural sciences. This history, however, bears an antecedent in the constitution of the life sciences in the 18th century, when dynamic concepts have equally played a structuring role in the formation of the Sciences of Man – and, in particular, in the debate classically defined as between mechanism vs vitalism. In conceiving the human in dynamic and energetic terms, the concepts of force and energy were not simply transplanted but transformed. These concepts, we contend, were assimilated with other traditions, generating concepts adapted to local purposes and practices, while maintaining its function of common currency – whereby allowing the concepts to be circulated within widely different domains, thus fertilising the generation of various epistemic practices.